The Baker Upstairs: May 2014


cookies and cream cheesecake brownies

These decadent and delicious cookies and cream cheesecake brownies are to die for!

These decadent and delicious cookies and cream cheesecake brownies are to die for!

If you are looking for a totally decadent dessert, look no further! These brownies are pretty much just loaded with yumminess. A rich, moist, brownie with a delicious creamy cheesecake layer, and crushed cookies throughout. I made them a few days ago to share with some of our new neighbors, and… um… unfortunately there were none left to share with them. They were just too good to share! (And since I know some of my neighbors read here, don't worry… I'll make them something else that's awesome.) Geoff particularly loved these because they combined so many of his favorite things in the same dessert. Yum!

You could make these with Oreos (or store brand sandwich cookies, I guess…) but I happen to really love Joe Joe's from Trader Joe's, so I used those. I'm sure either would be delicious, but those vanilla bean specks in the Joe Joe filling just get me every time. These brownies are so good!

Cookies and Cream Cheesecake Brownies
adapted from Cannella Vita

for the cheesecake filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the brownie batter:
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 1/3 cup coarsely chopped chocolate sandwich cookies, divided

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare an 8 x 8 baking dish by lining with parchment or foil. In a medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and sugar. Remove from heat and stir in the flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until blended. Fold in 1 cup of the chopped cookies. Spread half of the brownie batter in the pan. Spread the cheesecake mixture over the top of the batter. Press the remaining brownie batter into a thin layer on top of the cheesecake mixture. (I found the easiest way to do this was to press it between two layers of plastic wrap.) Sprinkle the remaining chopped cookies over the top, and bake 20-25 minutes, or until set. Let cool completely before slicing and serving.

These decadent and delicious cookies and cream cheesecake brownies are to die for!


fresh strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream

This beautiful and delicious fresh strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream is perfect for any summer celebration!

This beautiful and delicious fresh strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream is perfect for any summer celebration!

My sweet Abby turned seven a few weeks ago, and we finally got around to having her birthday party this last weekend (yes, we're terrible parents). We had a nice brunch with my family and it was fun to celebrate our cute (and growing way too fast!) seven year old. I wanted to make an extra special cake for her, and we decided together that a rose cake would be perfect for her party. Abby is a super girly girl, and loves pink and purple and wants everything to be beautiful. I had originally thought I would just make a vanilla cake with vanilla icing and tint it pink, but when I bought some gorgeous strawberries at Costco for the brunch, I realized they would be perfect in the cake too!

My favorite cake recipe was super easy to adapt using fresh strawberries, and I used my new favorite fresh strawberry buttercream for the frosting. The roses were surprisingly easy to do. Mine are actually quite imperfect, but somehow having them all together hides the imperfections and makes the top of the cake beautiful. (There's an excellent tutorial here from I am baker, one of my favorite sources for delicious treats and gorgeous photos.) I had originally planned to do roses all over the cake, but I ran out of frosting and was too lazy to mix up another batch. I think they're still pretty just on the top of the cake, though. Abby was delighted with her cake, and it tasted as good as it looked!

Fresh Strawberry Cake with Strawberry Buttercream

for the cake:
1 1/2 cups cake flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, cold, cut into small cubes
4 eggs
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup strawberry puree (from about 1 1/2 cups strawberries)
2 teaspoons vanilla

for the frosting:
2 sticks butter, softened
pinch of salt
3 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons strawberry puree (from about 1/2 cup strawberries)

Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans. In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the cake flour, all purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Beat in the eggs one at a time. In a measuring cup, combine the milk, strawberry puree, and vanilla. Add half of the milk mixture to the flour mixture, and mix to combine. Add the other half of the milk mixture and mix until smooth. Divide between the prepared pans and bake 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting. To make the frosting, beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the salt, powdered sugar, and vanilla, and mix to combine. Add the strawberry puree and beat until light and fluffy. Frost cake as desired.

adapted from these cupcakes

This beautiful and delicious fresh strawberry cake with strawberry buttercream is perfect for any summer celebration!


easy chicken philly sandwiches

These easy to make chicken philly sandwiches are so delicious and ready in less than 30 minutes!

These easy to make chicken philly sandwiches are so delicious and ready in less than 30 minutes!

I've mentioned it before, but there is an awesome little restaurant near our house called Moochie's, and I just can't get enough of their food. Their subs are the best I've ever had! They also make the best fries, and the jalapeƱo sauce they serve with their subs and fries is to die for. Whenever Geoff and I are trying to figure out somewhere fun to pick up lunch, Moochie's is always at the top of my list. The other night I was craving my beloved chicken philly cheesesteak sandwich from Moochie's, and decided to give it a go at home using ingredients I had in the fridge.

The resulting sandwiches weren't exactly the same as Moochie's, but they were super easy and delicious, and totally satisfied my cravings! We both loved them so much we had them again a few days later, and they were just as tasty the second time around. These make a perfect dinner that's ready in under 30 minutes. Yum!

Easy Chicken Philly Sandwiches

1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups cooked chicken, thinly sliced or shredded
lemon pepper seasoning, to taste
4 sandwich rolls, sliced lengthwise (I used bolillo rolls)
6 slices of American cheese, cut into triangles (or any cheese you like, but American cheese is supposed to be more authentic)

Preheat the broiler. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper, and cook until crisp tender, then add the chicken and lemon pepper and cook until heated through. Divide the chicken mixture among the rolls, and top each with three triangles of cheese. Broil until the cheese is melted and the rolls are lightly browned. (Watch carefully so the rolls don't burn!) Enjoy!


mango pineapple smoothie

This refreshing and delicious mango pineapple smoothie is like a tropical vacation in a glass!

This refreshing and delicious mango pineapple smoothie is like a tropical vacation in a glass!

Is it just me, or is summer coming on speedily this year? We've had so many warm days lately, and I'm simultaneously loving and hating them. Loving them because we're spending so much time outside as a family, playing on the playground and going for walks, and hating them because I know if it's this hot now, it's going to be miserable this summer. Our favorite way to keep cool during the summer is with fruit smoothies, and this mango pineapple smoothie is awesomely delicious!

This refreshing and delicious mango pineapple smoothie is like a tropical vacation in a glass!

I've been making smoothies for a long time, but I feel like I finally discovered the secret to perfect smoothies… frozen bananas! I was skeptical at first, but they make everything so sweet and creamy and delightful. I've found that if I add a banana to a smoothie, I don't need to add any sugar or honey at all to sweeten it. (I usually wait until my bananas are getting a little spotty and then just throw them in the freezer to save for smoothies.) I also really like to use a mixture of fresh and frozen fruit, especially because it means I don't have to add any ice and water down the smoothie. This smoothie is so easy to make and so simple too!

Mango Pineapple Smoothie

1 frozen ripe banana
3/4 cup frozen mango chunks
3/4 cup fresh pineapple chunks
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup milk (I usually use soy or almond milk)

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more milk or juice as needed to thin out the smoothie to the desired consistency. Enjoy!

This refreshing and delicious mango pineapple smoothie is like a tropical vacation in a glass!


Panera-copycat broccoli cheddar soup


Okay, now that you've made your delicious bread bowls, you need something awesome to fill them with, right? Enter this super delicious Panera-copycat broccoli cheddar soup! I went to Panera for the first time on our trip to San Diego in March, and it was love at first bite. Their broccoli cheddar soup is out of this world, and their fresh bread is seriously the best. I loved it so much that I made Geoff drive back there again two days later, even though we had a list of nearby restaurants we wanted to try and the closest Panera was 20+ minutes away from our hotel. It was so worth it, though!

Since we got home, I've been dying to try that soup again, but sadly the closest Panera is over 500 miles away (boo!). I was super excited to find this recipe so I could make it at home! I can't say with 100% certainty that it is exactly like Panera, since it has been two months since I had it last, but I can say that it is incredibly delicious, and the best broccoli cheddar soup I've ever made. And when served in a freshly baked bread bowl, it's pretty incredible. It's comfort food at its finest!

Panera-Copycat Broccoli Cheddar Soup

4 tablespoons butter
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cup milk (I used skim and it worked fine)
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
4 cups broccoli florets
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I used Tillamook sharp cheddar), plus more for sprinkling
1 - 2 teaspoons of salt (to taste)
pepper to taste

In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and garlic, and sautee until softened and fragrant. Slowly add the cream, milk, and chicken stock, and stir well. Add the corn starch to a bowl and add enough water to cover. Whisk with a fork until the corn starch is dissolved and the mixture is smooth, then add it to the pot. Add the nutmeg and cook until slightly thickened. Stir in the carrot and broccoli and simmer until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cheese. Add 1 teaspoon salt, taste, and add more as needed. Serve warm sprinkled with additional cheese.

adapted from Yammie's Noshery


easy homemade bread bowls

Easy homemade bread bowls from The Baker Upstairs. These delicious bread bowls are perfect for soups and dips, and are ready in about an hour!

Ah, bread. How I love it! I really think you could offer me anything in the world, and there's nothing I would want more than some soft, warm, freshly baked bread with butter. Bread always seems a little like magic to me… you throw in a few simple ingredients (salt, flour, water, yeast, etc.) and you end up with a fluffy delicious loaf. I can't believe it took me this long in my bread-making career to make my own bread bowls! I always imagined that they would be fairly fussy and difficult to make, but they are super easy, and surprisingly quick to make as well! If you've never had fresh soup in a bread bowl, you are totally missing out. These bread bowls would also work well for serving dips. We ate them with some to-die-for broccoli cheese soup (recipe to come soon!), and they made for a wonderful and delicious dinner. I can't wait to make them again!


quick parmesan bagels


Okay, so remember a long time ago when I made bagels? Yeah, I haven't made them again since. And you know why? Because they take foreeeeeeeeever to make. I love bagels, and when the craving strikes, I want them now, not 24 hours from now! Don't get me wrong, those bagels were super delicious, but I just needed a quicker recipe to use regularly. I found this awesome one on How Sweet It Is (which is seriously one of the best food blogs out there) and was excited to give it a try. These quick parmesan bagels were the result, and they are amazing!


celebrate cinco de mayo!


Who is excited for Cinco de Mayo? I certainly am! I love any excuse to eat mexican food. (It's all about the food, right?) I thought it would be a perfect time to share twelve of my favorite mexican recipes with you! These are all family-tested and approved, and they're all staples on our menu year round. I'd love for you to try a recipe or two for your Cinco de Mayo celebration!


homemade egg mcmuffins


Mornings at our house are always hectic. Geoff leaves for work really early, so it's just me getting both of the girls ready for the day, and most days it feels a little like herding cats to get them both dressed, fed, and looking presentable! By the time I've gotten the girls dressed and ready to go to school and preschool, we're usually right on the verge of being late and it's a mad dash out the door. It's only when I get to work that I realize I haven't eaten anything for breakfast and I'm starving. Too often I stop for a quick breakfast sandwich or a smoothie to get me through the morning. Lately, though, we have been trying really hard to pinch every penny we can, so I decided it was high time I buckled down and made my own breakfast sandwiches. These homemade egg mcmuffins are not only really easy and delicious, they also freeze really well, making them perfect for keeping in the freezer for those busy mornings!
Homemade Egg McMuffins

6 english muffins, sliced and toasted (make your own with this recipe!)
6 slices of cheese (I used pepper jack, but any kind of cheese would be good!)
6 large eggs
salt and pepper to taste
optional: meat of your choice (I used precooked turkey sausage, but I think these would be great with bacon or ham as well)

Preheat the oven to 350. Prepare a jumbo muffin tin by spraying with cooking spray. (If you don't have a  jumbo muffin tin, you could also use ramekins to bake the eggs.) Crack an egg into each well of the muffin tin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes or until the white is set. Assemble the sandwiches as desired. To save for the freezer, wrap in foil or plastic wrap, then place in a freezer-safe container (I usually just put them all in a gallon-sized freezer bag). To reheat, remove the wrapping and place on a paper towel and microwave one minute at full power, or until cooked through.

adapted from The Baker Chick